Further Justice for abuse vict...

Further Justice for abuse victims after Ministry of Justice agrees to extension of Medomsley compensation scheme.

Posted : 4th February 2021

A joint initiative between Law Firms Watson Woodhouse of Middlesbrough & Jordans of Wakefield has lead to the Ministry of Justice agreeing to an extension to the compensation scheme for those who suffered abuse at the hands of Medomsley Detention Centre staff.  

Medomsley Detention Centre, Consett was a prison for young male offenders from 1961 until its closure in 1988, & provided a place for young offenders aged 16-21 as an alternative to  mainstream prison. In 2013 Durham Constabulary launched an investigation into allegations of systematic sexual, physical and mental abuse by a cohort of prison officers spanning a period of 25 years. Named “Operation Seabrook”, it is one of the largest investigations of its kind in the UK and supported by a dedicated team of officers. Nearly 2,000 men, to-date, have come forward to report allegations of abuse at Medomsley that spanned a period of 25 years.

The agreed extension to the victims’ compensation scheme, means many potential victims who were initially not eligible to receive compensation under the terms of the scheme can now make a claim. The initial scheme was restricted to five officers originally convicted of physical abusing detainees; Christopher Onslow, John McGee, Brian Greenwell, Kevin Blakely and Alan Bramley, each were sentenced with the maximum sentence awarded being eight years. Two further officers Ian Nicholson and Alexander Flavell are still awaiting trial, after a postponement from November 2020. Claims were also possible against Officers Neville Husband and Leslie Johnson who were both convicted of sexual offences but have since died. The extended scheme removes the requirement for the officer in question to be convicted before a claim can be made. Victims now only need to prove they were in the detention centre at the same time as the officer who physically abused them.

The extension was facilitated due to the collective actions of a Steering Group comprising of a number of Law Firms, led by Alistair Smith. The Investigations were also raised in Parliament with support from local MP for Middlesbrough, Andy McDonald. Due to the scale of the investigation there is now recognition for the need for a Public Enquiry to try to understand how and why systematic abuse occurred and went undetected for so long.

Alistair Smith, specialist Historic Abuse Solicitor at Watson Woodhouse Solicitors in Middlesbrough, has been leading the Steering Group which has lobbied the Ministry of Justice to initially  introduce a compensation scheme and also to extend the scheme and its criteria to allow further compensation to many more victims.  Collectively the Steering Group were representing over 1000 cases brought by ex inmates.

The Watson Woodhouse & Jordan’s teams have secured over 500 cases themselves. Due to their role in the lobbying, they are able to work on a “No Win, No Fee” basis with no deduction taken from the compensation awarded, as costs are settledby the Ministry of Justice. This means they are able to pass the full compensation to their clients, whereas other Solicitors may deduct a charge of up to 25% of any compensation awarded.

Alistair Smith of Watson Woodhouse says: “Abuse, whether it be sexual or physical, is appalling whenever it happens and has awful consequences for its victims. We cannot take back what has happened in the past but we can try to help ease the future and recover any compensation you may be due. We understand the impact of trauma survivors have to deal with on a daily basis. We want to reassure all claimants that we deal with all cases in a sensitive and confidential manner, with both male and female solicitors available to provide advice and support. We never have and never will deduct compensation from victims of abuse at Medomsley or Kirklevington”

Alistair offers further reassurance to victims “A lot of years have passed and we don’t want claimants to be deterred by the thought of a long application process, it’s really not. It’s as easy as a 15 minute call with a member of our team to establish the year(s) you were detained and any personal knowledge or interactions you remember with the officers. After that, we complete the application process, and go on to source the PNC evidence number required to proceed for you. Around 90% of our clients are successful and receive between £1750 and £5000 compensation depending on the criteria and their level & longevity of suffering”.

Following on from this landmark investigation into Medomsley, hundreds of ex detainees have reported similar practices at Kirklevington Detention Centre near Yarm in Teesside. Both Law Firms are also keen to hear of any ex detainees who were abused at that facility also between the 1960’s and 1990’s.

If you or anyone you know has experienced abuse at the hands of officers in either Medomsley Detention Centre, Consett or  Kirklevington Detention Centre Yarm, please do get in touch with us for an informal discussion by calling us on 01642 247656 or emailing us at medomsley@watsonwoodhouse.co.uk

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